HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett said he will soon put up a new round of television advertisements, with about four months to go before voters decide whether he deserves a second term.
The Republican incumbent discussed his race against Democrat Tom Wolf in an hourlong interview this week with the Associated Press, calling his opponent “a totally unproven commodity” and defending his own record since taking office in early 2011.
Corbett said he knows Wolf only slightly from “riding the elevator together” when Wolf was state revenue secretary under Corbett’s predecessor in the governor’s residence, Democrat Ed Rendell.
He said Wolf “seems like a nice guy,” but he plans to go after him on tax issues and on Wolf’s lack of experience.
Through a spokesman, Wolf notes his experience includes 25 years as chief executive of a kitchen cabinet distribution company.
Here’s some of what else the governor had to say Thursday at his official residence in Harrisburg:
Asked about last year’s transportation funding law that raised taxes and fees, Corbett said concerns about public safety on crumbling roads and structurally deficient bridges made him support it, despite a promise during the 2010 campaign not to raise taxes or fees. He said higher fuel efficiency was eating into gas tax collections and he was able to get a change in the prevailing wage law, expanding how many smaller projects could be contracted out without the law’s minimum pay rules for workers. “You go and talk to some township supervisors, particularly second-class and third-class townships, what does that mean to them? It’s huge,” Corbett said.
Corbett’s lawyers defended the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a federal lawsuit that led a judge to strike down the law last month. “That was the law of Pennsylvania, wasn’t it? We were defending it. In fact, the attorney general refused to defend it,” he said. Asked if he thought gay marriage was morally wrong, he said it is “not for me to be the ultimate judge on that.”
Gas drilling lawsuit
The governor said he still thinks a limit on local governments’ ability to restrict where natural gas drilling can occur was a good law, even though the state Supreme Court threw it out late last year. “Thirty years from now, as this industry really gets up and running, I think the history books will say, ‘You know, Pennsylvania got that right,”’ Corbett said.
Natural gas support
Corbett dismissed those who say he’s overly supportive of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. “They say that because it benefits their argument,” he said. “What I’m overly supportive of are the people of Pennsylvania and finding jobs for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Voter ID law
Corbett said the voter ID law he supported, which was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge in January, was not an attempt to suppress votes. He said last month he would not appeal the decision. “There’s no effort in suppressing the vote. The only effort is to make sure the person who says they are John Smith is John Smith,” Corbett said.
Relationship with lawmakers
Corbett said he stands by the public corruption prosecution of state lawmakers and aides during his time as attorney general but acknowledged it may have harmed his ability to work with the General Assembly as governor.
“I would say there are some in the Legislature that were never pleased with the work that I did as attorney general with regard to the Bonus- and Computer-gate investigations, yeah, I’m aware of that. Again, that was for the people of Pennsylvania,” he said.
Corbett said he will not support any bill that goes beyond his announcement last month that he supports the use and research of a marijuana extract to treat severe seizures in children. He said he’s expressed that to two prime backers of medical marijuana, Sens. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, and Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon. “I’ve already told both Sen. Folmer and Sen. Leach that what I have proposed is as far as I’m going,” Corbett said.
Next term priorities
Corbett said he expects additional work ahead on public sector pensions if he wins a second term. He also said the formula by which the state splits up education funding among 500 districts needs to be changed. “What’s a fair funding formula, what is fair? Because that’s what I hear all the time, and it’s a very hard concept to grasp because what’s fair to you in Philadelphia isn’t necessarily going to be fair to somebody in Bellefonte, Centre County,” he said. He also said the state should consider whether school employees, like state employees, should have more uniform health care benefits, as opposed to a district-by-district approach.
The governor said the 2014 campaign – his fourth statewide campaign – will be his last, no matter the result. “When I finish as governor, I’ll be 69 years old. I’m going to spend time with my grandchildren,” he said. He plans to keep living in the home in Shaler, outside Pittsburgh, where he’s resided since he was 7, though he’ll probably spend more time at a place he and his wife, Susan, own in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Corbett said being governor is the hardest job he’s ever had, even harder than being attorney general or U.S. attorney. “Most of my jobs have been prosecutor jobs,” he said. “People like prosecutors, except the ones you put in jail and their families. This job, it’s very difficult to please everybody. You can’t please everybody. You can’t be making those decisions to please everybody because if you try to please everybody, you’ll never get your job done.”